Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods south
15. Natural Arch and Rocky Top
16. Sardine Mountain
17. Dome Rock
18. Tumble Lake
19. Elkhorn Ridge
20. Little North Santiam River
21. Henline Falls
22. Henline Mountain
23. Opal Creek
24. Whetstone Mountain Loop
25. Phantom Bridge and Opal Lake
26. French Creek Ridge
27. Battle Ax
28. Battle Creek and Emerald Pool
29. Gold Butte
30. Hawk Mountain and Round Lake
The Opal Creek and Bull of the Woods Wilderness Areas form the largest contiguous expanse of ancient forest left in Oregon. Unsurprisingly, the highlight of virtually every hike in this area is the forest, and fans of the area compare groves of old-growth here only against the nearby competition. Not to be outdone, the creeks and rivers in the area are often an electric shade of green, a reflection of the green rock underneath the flowing water. These two attributes reach their zenith in the Little North Santiam River Trail (Hike 20), Opal Creek (Hike 23) and the Elk Lake Creek Trail (Hikes 11 and 28), three of the finest low-elevation forest hikes in the state of Oregon.
Hikes in this area frequently follow a creek past waterfalls or a ridge top to a viewpoint or rock formation, but very few do both – and those that do are often quite difficult. The low-elevation hikes in this area are open all winter, and you’ll find yourself coming back to this area again and again. There is, after all, only one Opal Creek. The long battle to save the forests and ridgetops from logging left scars, both in the communities here but also in the land itself. Hundreds of miles of logging roads snake across the Opal Creek area, and in many places it is possible to determine the Wilderness boundaries just by looking at the terrain. Regardless of your opinions about logging, it is a jarring contrast.
The challenge of visiting this area lies mainly in the road access. While many of the hikes in this area are accessible year-round, many of the roads in this area are narrow, steep and subject to the frequent washouts and rockslides. A constant vigilance is required - these roads are a reflection of the rugged nature of this area.